By Ed Weisbart, M.D.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Letters, Oct. 12, 2015
Patriot Coal’s latest bankruptcy success once again draws attention to the desperate measures some employers take to unburden themselves from the financial burdens of employee health (editorial “Shafted,” Oct. 8).
No other modern nation inserts health care into the middle of labor contracts. American workers and businesses both suffer from this accident of history. Workers find their negotiated benefits under constant attack; businesses find the costs an unlevel playing field, driving them to avoid aged and unhealthy employees and still less able to compete with businesses based in countries that have developed more sensible systems.
The United Mine Workers would not need to fight for their right to health care if all Americans, mine workers and the rest of us, were included in a national health insurance program. We have a very popular model for this — Medicare. Beloved by seniors, its flaws could be readily improved (expand the benefit design to include things like dentistry and nutritional counseling; eliminate the financial barriers that have crept in). Expanding Medicare to all Americans would remove health care from the non-productive operating costs borne by American businesses, and introduce free market solutions to the delivery of health care.
Providing all Americans with an improved form of Medicare is the only solution that promises affordable access to the high quality of health care we like to think of as American. The mine workers deserve this; who among us does not?
Dr. Ed Weisbart resides in Olivette. He is chair of the Physicians for a National Health Program-Missouri chapter.